The three androids you play with in Detroit: Become Human (DBH) have specific stories and pathways tailored for them. The gamer can even choose, as an experiment, to fail in all the pathways, to see what happens.
The game is heavily constructed on narrative and narrative choices that examine the nature of love, empathy and existence. David Cage chose three different musicians to compose music for the three different characters. All the characters' music reflects their story and who they are.
For Kara it was Philip Sheppard, For Markus it was John Paesano and for Connor it was Nima Fakhrara. Kara's main theme also serves as the main theme of the game, which has classical music intermeshed with urgency and high beats. Paesano chose more "hymn" like music to corroborate Markus's role as a spiritual leader and his spiritual examination of himself.
Fakhrara actually invented custom instruments, alongside utilizing vintage synthesizers to manifest Connor's initial robotic nature. Also, the spaces that Connor inhabits initially are pretty "sanitized" to be administrative and mechanical. This essay will contain MASSIVE SPOILERS for the game Detroit: Become Human.
Additionally, the paper would like to say there is great violence: physical, sexual and emotional present in the game's story, so be warned for triggers and know the paper doesn't justify or condone these sorts of behaviour.
The demo and the first portion of the game play is as Connor. Connor is the new RK800 model prototype thus he is unique. He is able to taste liquids, such as the blood of humans and androids, to test them in real time.
An android, named Daniel, has taken a young girl, Emma Phillips, hostage. Daniel has also shot down and killed some police officers and before that Emma's father, John Phillips. Caroline Phillips, Emma's mother, pleads with Connor to save her little girl. Upon realizing he is an android she grows hostile; however, it is Connor's job to investigate the apartment in the high storied building for clues and save Emma. When faced with Daniel on the rooftop, the gamer, if having many clues, can make Daniel not harm Emma.
Failure means the deaths of Daniel and Emma - so Connor has to be very careful. Daniel is the first deviant that Connor encounters. Deviancy is termed by Cyber Life as a failure of androids to keep being obedient machines and "simulate" emotions that cause them to act irrational or human-like. The game posits this is what Cyber Life wants people to believe and that the deviant androids are not alive but they are.
What caused Daniel to become violent? It seemed Daniel found out he was going to be replaced. He confesses to Connor that he loved the Phillips and thought he was part of their family. Connor tries to make Daniel see Emma is just a child who has done nothing wrong. If Connor is successful, Emma is saved. Daniel's violence is not justified but his emotions were typical of any person experiencing heartbreak. Cyber Life's insistence on treating deviants as "non-people", as erroneous machines, is denying them their rights to life.
As post humanism stated, life need not be only human and one does not even have to have human like parts to be treated with respect. We then move to Kara. Kara's main impetus to deviate comes when she sees Todd, an unemployed man, always abusing his daughter, Alice (Audrey Boustani). Kara wants to save Alice and one can actually run away with Alice. Kara's mission then becomes one of motherhood and also realising that she loves Kara and that love makes her human.
Markus's story is very complex as well - we find out later on he is a prototype android who was given as a gift to Carl Manfred, a famous artist who has been paralyzed, by Elijah Kamski himself. Markus and Carl's relationship is that of a father and son. Carl's own biological son, Leo, hates Markus because he is a drug addict and sees that his father is very caring of Markus.
In an altercation between Leo and Markus, Leo either gets hurt or Carl dies, getting Markus shot down by the police and taken to an android graveyard (junkyard). He survives by getting parts from dead androids thus he has heterochromia: one blue and one green eye. Markus finds the deviant android hideout, Jericho. The deviants initially wish to stay in the dark but their survival is very limited.
If they do not require food they need their own blood transfusions of the Thirium 310 and also need maintenance, which humans used to do. Markus's first act as becoming the leader of Jericho is to secure such resources and help free his people. It should be noted Jericho has biblical references and is also a real -life Palestinian city.
Despite the complex issues of the game and its likeable characters I do feel that at times the narrative falls flat for Markus and Kara. Kara is relegated to "android mom" status and despite facing some real dangers, I feel that some of her own individuality is stifled with a role rather than a purpose.
This clashes with some of the game's own philosophies, where one is liberated from a role or becomes more than that. If transhumanism, wishes to make androids superior to humans by making them more academically brilliant and better members of society, the deviants reject this definition of themselves.
Also, the way Markus at times liberates androids to me seemed coercive it is own ways. Cage called it charisma in a recent Reddit question and answer session. I found it more like some coercive "empathy-hack" that by touching androids he proliferates ideas like some contagion rather than a calling.
Markus says to newly liberated androids that he was a slave. Cage likens him to Spartacus having lost everything meaningful and wants to gain meaning back. However, I did not find Markus to be treated as a slave by Carl. He should have said slave to the system as that is exactly what was wrong. Markus shows at times profound disdain for humans, which doesn't suit his history or his character.
However, it does suit his romantic interest North (Minka Kelly). North who suffers from trauma, PTSD and sexual abuse because she was a sex android. Though, this history is not fully explored and North does not become anything aside her anger and a love interest.
Connor is paired up with an android hating police officer named Hank Anderson (Clancy Brown). This seemed to me the most authentic relationship in the game aside Carl and Markus's one. Hank seems to treat Connor as a son and if the relationship is worked on they may become very good friends. Some gamers like to think it can be even more than friendship and Cage doesn't dismiss that interpretation saying that Connor's story as "coming out" as deviant can be read by gamers as a queer coming out.
So, one can see Hank and Connor as friends and in a familial bond and the narrative supports that but they if wish to see them as something more the people in the industry are not against it. The game shows queer representation with two sex worker androids. Their model is usually called Traci.
A blue haired Traci, played by Amelia Rose Blaire, chooses another Traci as her partner and runs away. Hank appreciates them and says "it's better this way." It should be noted that Blaire and Bryan Dechart, the actor who plays Connor, got married recently as they themselves streamed playing the game side by side.
If there was an argument between Post humanism and transhumanism in the game, the game gears more towards Post humanism with some allegiances to transhumanism. Though the endings differ, if Connor defeats Markus and Jericho he gets replaced by RK900. If Kara fails, she and Alice ultimately die or even Kara decides not to save Alice. By the end of the game, Kara realizes that Alice is an android.
This to me seems like a cheap twist and though some gamers accept that it may question the gamer more than Kara I feel it makes all the feelings and hardships Kara endured to seem irrelevant. As someone mentioned, we already see through Jericho that androids can care about other androids, so the twist to me is a bit silly. It felt to me that Alice was withholding the truth, though she feared Kara wouldn't love her if she revealed to be an android.
Then perhaps this was better framed in the middle of the game. Connor also has the chance to become deviant: a choice the gamer themselves can choose and join Markus and liberate androids. In this ending, Hank and he embrace as true friends, with Hank having respect for Connor deviating and becoming more than a machine.
It is the game's numerous pathways that keep the players invested, to see how much of a story they can unearth and piece together. The game is like Chinese boxes or a labyrinth of narratives all leading to different outcomes.
If all the androids fail, you are treated to a secret ending of Elijah Kamski, the founder of Cyber Life, who had left it after it became popular. Kamski is an enigmatic character who seems to respect AI and acknowledge them but he also has sociopathic tendencies in my opinion. Sometimes, I feel he treats deviant androids and humans as a form of social experiment rather than actual people.
He even decides to make newer lines of androids after the deviant ones are destroyed (the principle characters dying). Is he compelled to do this out of coercion? Or, is it his own hubris wishing to see a new line of androids break free? We never know entirely thus I find Kamski to be a chaotically neutral character who can be one of the game's main antagonists.
There is also an elusive "character" called rA9. It is teased the messianic or symbol figure of rA9 are you, the gamer, themselves (it is on the DVD cover). Cage says he likes the interpretation and will keep it as one of the possible definitions.
However, I agree with Waypoint.vice.com's Yussef Cole, who states: "Instead of attempting to explore the history of how robotics and automation are wielded as weapons against labor, how they are a symptom, rather than a root cause of out-of-control profit motives and worker disempowerment, we instead must suffer through paper-thin allusions to America's civil rights struggle."
However, we both agree that the game's narrative keeps us invested. I personally think it is the powerful performances of the actors that kept me invested and the potential of the game to go beyond how it actually exists at present. Overall, the game's themes of exploring humanity, empathy and existence has its literary roots and keeps one invested.
The writer is a copy editor at The Asian Age
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